Do You Want to Boost Your Personal Productivity?

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GTD for Students

Whether you are studying a master’s degree or learning a new language on your own, you will surely have to mix studying with other activities such as working or running a household.

Even if you are only studying at university, college or high school, your spare time is a precious trophy for which the next literature exam, the weekend concert, the football game with your friends, that very special friend and the Facebook chat are competing.

Probably, one of the most complicated challenges for students is using their time productively. No doubt, GTD is a tool that can greatly facilitate this task. This is a short introduction to how you can use GTD to be a better student and have more time for everything else.


It is essential to get used to using an Inbox to capture everything that pops up every day: assignments, exams, papers, group meetings, sports events, laundry, books to read… A notebook to write notes on the go and a physical inbox for papers, notes and documents are enough to start. You will review these stuff later. For now, the goal is to collect everything.

Only adding a paper submission date or an exam date to your traditional calendar will invite you to procrastinate, that is, to do nothing until that date is so close that you will need to spend three nights with little sleep to meet.


Process your Inbox at least once a day. Define a project for anything that requires more than one action, such as studying for a test or researching into a topic. If something has a deadline, add a reminder to the Calendar and also define a first action step to do as soon as possible.

Define very specific actions. The action Study for the literature exam also invites to procrastinate, because it is generic. You can break it down, for example, into Review the class notes, Revise the text comments, Summarize the textbook, Study Topic 1 and so on. This will give you a clearer picture of the project scope so you can start to address it in time.

Surely, you have a number of activities to do on a regular basis, such as German class every Thursday from 16 to 18 hrs. Find a system that allows you to set up these tasks in your Calendar in a simple and automated way.


A good organization will allow you to complete more tasks in less time and be more productive. Assign to each action the context in which it should be done: class, home, library, laboratory, computer… You can use a sheet of paper for each context, with their corresponding actions.

Classify all your reference material properly, by courses, subjects and topics. Physically organize them into handy folders, so you can instantly recognize and use them when needed.


Reviewing the entire system with the proper frequency is another important habit to make it work. You must review every day the inevitable tasks, that is, those that are in your Calendar.

Once a week—Sunday is the perfect day—you must review your Calendar for the next few days and check how each of your open projects is evolving. Add new actions to the Next Actions list if necessary, and set self-commitment deadlines for the actions of the projects that are running out of time.


You must focus each day on the obligatory actions of the Calendar. The rest of the time, get the list of actions that must be done in the context in which you are and choose among them the one that seems more important to you at the time.

This is a very nice presentation by Erwin de Beer that simplifies the GTD workflow for students:

Francisco Sáez

Francisco is the founder and CEO of FacileThings. He is also a Software Engineer who is passionate about personal productivity and the GTD philosophy as a means to a better life.

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